AI and Speech

Illustration generated using DALL·E 2.

The walls have ears

If you are one of those conspiracy theorists who has always believed that walls have ears and ‘they’ are always listening to us, then welcome to the 21st Century, where you may well NOW, be right. Cortana, Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa, are probably the most familiar names in the world of so called digital assistants, and yes, they are all listening to you.
Some of the listening in is a bit suspect though. For example, have you ever just had a conversation with a friend about your interest in possibly buying a wireless bluetooth speaker, only to then open the internet connection on your phone and be inundated with ads and links to exactly such devices. Now that, even to me, is a little freaky. Not just freaky, but in my opinion, a blatant invasion of my personal space and right to privacy.

Rise of the e-ssistant

But personal space and privacy aside, I have to admit, I’m quite a fan of these AI enabled helpers. For people with disabilities Alexa is a tremendously helpful innovation. Connected to other smart devices in the home it can open and close the curtains, turn on the shower and adjust the water temperature, turn on the tv and change channels, and oh yes, even play your favourite choice of music.
Then of course we have Google assistant, which, despite the fact I’m a huge Apple fan, is far more developed and useful than Siri; work still to do Cupertino people. You can ask Google pretty much anything and almost always get an answer that is correct. Of course, it means that every time we ask one of these little helpers something we are giving them information about ourselves. What interests us, what restaurants we like, books we read, news sources we use, what medical ailments we might be suffering from at the moment etc etc.

Too much information?

But as far as I’m concerned, knowingly handing over personal information about myself is something I’m happy to do as payback for the convenience of what is, and hopefully will continue to be, a free service. Sure, they know what I like, what I read, where I get my news and that I get constipated sometimes, but so what.
Perhaps we should all be more worried about what our smart TVs know about us!

Written by Ian Bowie